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Tag: Sir Simon Rattle

Berliner Philharmoniker – Simon Rattle conducts Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 2015 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

“The symphony can hold its head high in the presence of its eight sisters; it is certainly overshadowed by none,” wrote the reviewer of the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung on 12 May 1824 after the premiere of the work with which Sir Simon Rattle wraps up his Beethoven cycle. This symphony, composed in the context of such revolutionary compositions as the HammerklavierSonata op. 106, the Missa solemnis op. 123 and the Diabelli Variations op. 120, was Beethoven’s last great challenge in the field of orchestral music. In it the composer found his way to a monumental musical language that, in the words of Carl Dahlhaus, “stands up to being stated emphatically without collapsing into empty rhetoric”.

Starting from an indeterminate empty fifth, the music steers purposefully towards an apotheistic finale which gives a clear answer to the conflicts previously exposed. For what was at first just hinted on a purely instrumental level pushes through to linguistic clarity in the chorus part: the catchy theme is first introduced in the celli and basses, “as obscurely secretive and trusting … as long buried and drowned out memories of youth” (Adolph Bernhard Marx). It then passes through an unprecedented increase in a dynamic display of splendour in sound which, after an alla marcia section, gradually slows down, leading the work to its triumphal conclusion. The Rundfunkchor Berlin will sing, together with an ensemble of soloists of international reputation: besides the Berliner Annette Dasch, who, as one of the leading contemporary sopranos, can be experienced around the world at the most important concert and opera houses, mezzosoprano Eva Vogel is expected; she successfully debuted in the Philharmonic’s Berlin concerts in 2009. Other soloists are the tenor Christian Elsner as well as Dimitry Ivashchenko, who already sang the bass role in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the Philharmonic concert in the Waldbühne in 2013.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Simon Rattle conducts Beethoven’s Symphonies Nos. 6 and 8 2015 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

That for Beethoven, as for the “Sturm und Drang” poets and thinkers, nature was associated with a state of internal peace as a symbolic antithesis to civilization, is readily apparent in his Sinfonia pastorale. With the famous work, he created a light idyllic landscape of bucolic cheerfulness: the music does not press forward in a targeted fashion, urging onwards. Instead, the symphonic events are governed by images of nature moving within themselves, from the “Arrival in the countryside” to the “Scene by the brook”, from the “Merry gathering of country folk” to stormy weather.

But Beethoven was not interested in creating musical illustrations, as he stated in the well-known line “more the expression of feeling than painting”. This is because although there were definitely contemporary models for the subject of the Pastorale – for instance, the symphony Le Portrait musical de la Nature by the Stuttgart organist, conductor and composer Justin Heinrich Knecht, composed in 1782-83 – Beethoven understood the “Pastorale” here as a symbol for a higher world order into which man is integrated harmoniously.

Before the Sixth Symphony, Sir Simon Rattle conducts Beethoven’s Eighth, whose reception was characterized by terms like “lightheartedness” and “humour” early on – and with good reason: in Anton Schindler’s recounting, the Allegretto Scherzando reflects the mechanical works of metronome inventor Johann Nepomuk Mälzel, since the main theme reverts to the so-called Mälzel Canon WoO 162, which Beethoven composed in the spring of 1812 at a companionable farewell dinner to the words “Ta ta ta ta … lieber Mälzel, leben Sie wohl, sehr wohl! Banner der Zeit, großer Metronom” Ta ta ta ta … dear Mälzel, fare thee well, fare thee very well! Banner of the time, great metronome. And Louis Spohr felt that the Finale with its rapidly changing ideas was like someone sticking out his tongue in the middle of a conversation, while Carl Dahlhaus wrote of a “humoristic demonstration of the impossibility of a solution”. Constantin Floros appropriately called the movement “probably the most brilliant example of the art of the imprévu from the time before Berlioz.”

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Simon Rattle conducts Beethoven’s Symphonies Nos. 4 and 7 2015 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

Beethoven began working on his Fifth Symphony in 1804, even before finishing the Eroica. Before the piece was completed in the spring of 1808, however, the composer chose to set himself to yet another symphonic work: the conceptually evidently less problematic Fourth, which appears in the words of Robert Schumann like a “slender Greek maiden between two Nordic giants”, whereby “Greek” – no doubt intended positively by Schumann – probably stands primarily for “classical”, i.e. “in accordance with known form”. In 1844 Hector Berlioz wrote about this work, with which Sir Simon Rattle continues his Beethoven cycle: “Here Beethoven leaves ode and elegy completely to return to the less sublime and less gloomy but perhaps no less difficult style of the second symphony. The general character of the score is lively and alert, of a celestial sweetness.”

Four years after the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, Beethoven then composed his Seventh, premiered jointly on 8 December 1813 with the resounding portrait of a battle Wellington’s Victory or The Battle of Vittoria op. 91 at a charity concert “in the best interest of the Austrian and Bavarian soldiers who became invalids in Hanau”. Thus, his contemporaries understood the two works to represent the unity of “battle” and “victory”. Through late February 1814 there were two repeat performances at each of which the second movement – deemed by the press “the crown of the newer instrumental music” – had to be played again. It’s no wonder that Beethoven’s Seventh with its vision of victory in the first movement, the hymn-like passages of the Scherzo and the ecstatic rhythms of the Finale became extremely popular within a very short time. The reviewer of the Leipzig Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung described the work as the “most melodious, most pleasing and most comprehensible among all Beethoven’s symphonies”. More than a century later, Theodor W. Adorno even called the piece “the symphony par excellence”.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Simon Rattle conducts Beethoven’s Symphonies Nos. 2 and 5 2015 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

In Beethoven’s Second Symphony in D major, anything playful or cheerful is banned from the musical vocabulary, substituted for by the pathos later described with terms like “greatness” and “majesty”. No wonder the critic from the Allgemeinen musikalischen Zeitung wrote of a “colossal work” whose Finale, a veritable tour de force, ends in a thrilling stretta coda, ensuring a resplendent apotheotic conclusion.

In his Fifth Symphony, which Sir Simon Rattle has placed on the second half of this programme within his Beethoven cycle, Beethoven again drew on the idioms of French revolution music that he had used in the funeral march of the Eroica. Accordingly, the orchestral instrumentation, expanded in the Finale to include for the first time three trombones, piccolo and contrabassoon, approaches the instruments used in ceremonial martial music. In addition, there are many thematic references to the music of the French Revolution, which is why Robert Schumann pointed out the similarity with the First Symphony in G minor by Étienne-Nicolas Méhul, composed at the same time.

The famous “knocking motive” of the first movement seems to be taken, on the other hand, from Luigi Cherubini’s Hymne du Panthéon: the corresponding passage from the chorus, performed as the official music of the French Revolution in 1792, is about pledging to die for the republic and human rights.

This credo of liberté, égalité and fraternité also determines the opera Leonore or rather Fidelio, as in Beethoven’s interpretation Jean-Nicolas Bouilly’s originally politically unobjectionable libretto shifted into the revolutionary. In total he composed four overtures to the various versions of the opera; the Leonore Overture No. 1 in C major op. 138 was the third. All Leonore overtures document the attempt to capture in compressed form the action on stage in sound, resulting in an impressive concentration of motives and harmonic developments.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Simon Rattle conducts Beethoven’s Symphonies Nos. 1 and 3 2015 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

Over just five years, Ludwig van Beethoven undertook a long journey from his First Symphony to the Eroica. The starting point of this significant music historical development, beginning with the C major Symphony composed in 1799-1800, were the models of the late Haydn Symphonies, at that time the measure of all things with their balanced form, rich contrasts and individual characteristics.

Although Beethoven took over many of these patterns in his First Symphony, the idea of what is considered symphonic is re-defined here. This can already be heard in the dissonant seventh that initiates the work: until then there had never been a comparably exciting beginning. It seems as if Beethoven wanted to make unmistakably clear with this first measure that he would start the genre afresh at the beginning of the new century.

Sir Simon Rattle follows up the C major Symphony in his Beethoven cycle with the Eroica, once and for all breaking with all his contemporaries’ expectations. That’s because in this work Beethoven exceeded the limits of the convention on the “new path”, as he designated it in unprecedented clarity, with a music which nowhere repudiated the storehouse of intonation from the world of sound of the French Revolution and Napoleon’s victories, with numerous echoes of official commemorative hymns and funeral marches of the first French republic.

In so doing, the Eroica does not follow the tradition of the battaglia and battle symphonies, the genre to which Beethoven later made his own contribution with the tone poem Wellington’s Victory or The Battle of Vittoria op. 91. Instead the heroic inflection, similar to the Grande Sinfonie caractéristique pour la paix avec la République françoise written by Mozart’s contemporary Paul Wranitzky in 1797, professes a worldview that achieves universal significance without respect to the specific political context of the time.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Simon Rattle conducts Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Madrid 2013 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

In the Digital Concert Hall, experiencing the Berliner Philharmoniker outside their home base – the Philharmonie – always has a special appeal, with recordings of tour concerts giving an impression of other major concert venues and their audiences. In this recording, we introduce the visitors of the Digital Concert Hall to the Teatro Real in Madrid where the Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle performed Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on three evenings at the end of June 2013.

The orchestra was also granted a special honour: Queen Sophia of Spain attended one of the concerts and afterwards welcomed the musicians and their chief conductor. The concerts themselves were not only a musical, but also a European event: A German orchestra with a British conductor in Spain, in addition to a multinational ensemble of soloists with the soprano Cammilla Tilling (Sweden), contralto Nathalie Stutzmann (France), bass Dimitry Ivashchenko (Russia) and an overseas guest, the Canadian tenor Joseph Kaiser.

All the more appropriate then, that the work of the evening was Beethoven’s Ninth, whose final movement – in an arrangement by Herbert von Karajan – has been the official anthem of the European Union since 1985. This interpretation also allowed room for expressive development beyond the “Ode to Joy”, such as the Adagio molto, which here unfolds like a delicate piece of chamber music. The exultant finale built up to a stupendous climax. “A miracle,” was how the newspaper El País described the concert before immediately correcting itself: “No, reality in its most beautiful form.”

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Simon Rattle conducts Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony and Modernist concertos 2013 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

Beethoven described his Sixth Symphony as “more an expression of feeling than painting” even though the Pastoral Symphony dates from before the time of a dogged distinction between absolute and programme music. Even more astonishing than Beethoven’s labelling this a musical day in the country is its genesis: he composed the Pastoral contemporaneously with his Fifth Symphony and presented both for the first time on 22 December 1808 – what a programme! – along with the Fourth Piano Concerto, parts of the C major Mass, and the Choral Fantasy.

Has any composer more forcefully demonstrated the breadth of his musical invention? To Beethoven it came naturally: he often worked simultaneously on two works in the same genre in order to exhaust its expressive potential. And so the Pastoral forms a counterpart to the Fifth: in major instead of minor, in five rather than four movements, inspired by a programme as opposed to absolute music.

The last-mentioned contrast is also exhibited in the first part of this concert: the Double Concerto for Oboe, Harp and Chamber Orchestra by Witold Lutosławski strikes one as absolute music when heard alongside Henri Dutilleux’s Violin Concerto, the title of which – L’Arbre des songes – is ripe for programmatic interpretation. Marie-Pierre Langlamet (harp) and Jonathan Kelly (oboe), both members of the Berliner Philharmoniker, are the soloists in the Lutosławski Double Concerto; the solo part in L’Arbre des songes (The Tree of Dreams) is taken by Artist in Residence Leonidas Kavakos.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Simon Rattle conducts Beethoven, Haydn and Widmann 2012 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

Joseph Haydn’s C minor symphony (No. 95), composed in 1791, is in many ways strikingly different from the other London Symphonies. It is the only one in a minor key, in addition to which Haydn dispensed with the slow introduction: right from the first tutti beat, the listeners are “in medias res”. What is also remarkable is the final rondo in which the lyrical tone is evidence of an engagement with Mozart’s late symphonies.

A revealing debate with tradition is also manifest in Jörg Widmann’s creative work. The composer says: “I don’t consider what is new a self-contained quality.” The performance of Widmann’s concerto Flûte en suite for flute and orchestral groups will feature Philharmonic principal flautist Emmanuel Pahud, who, after the work’s premiere in Cleveland in 2011, will be the first to perform the work in Europe. According to the composer, the work is “an arrangement of small sections like a suite, a collection of different dance forms. Almost each individual movement juxtaposes the solo flute with just one specific timbre, one instrumental group from the orchestra.”

After the interval the Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle will dedicate themselves to Ludwig van Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, a work that – with its hymn-like sounds and ecstatic rhythms – was celebrated as the “crown of the more recent instrumental music” by the Leipzig Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung after its premiere on 8 December 1813. The stirring piece, which advanced to become an audience favourite within a very short time, the reviewer continued, is the “most tuneful, pleasing and comprehensive of all Beethoven symphonies”. More than a century later, Theodor W. Adorno even called it “the symphony par excellence”.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Simon Rattle conducts Beethoven and Mendelssohn at the Waldbuhne 2013 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

When the Berliner Philharmoniker ended their 2012/13 season with an open-air performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony under Sir Simon Rattle, the evening’s motto was undoubtedly “Brothers, beneath the starry vault a loving father must dwell!” Where could we find a better illustration of Schiller’s enthusiasm for Creation than in what is arguably Europe’s most beautiful outdoor stage, where the merry twitter of the local birds blends with the playing of a world-class orchestra?

For Rattle it was a particular joy to have Christian Tetzlaff as his soloist, for he holds the violinist in high esteem: “He combines intellect with passion – and he does so without any airs and graces.” Tetzlaff delighted his listeners with Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, performing it not as an ingratiating display piece, as one might expect with an outdoor audience, but as a masterpiece of the violin repertory that Tetzlaff was keen to present in this very special setting: “Performing in the open air is tremendous fun because you know that the most disparate people will come. It is important that I tell people who rarely go to a concert what a jewel this piece is. It begins by depicting a situation that I would describe as problematical and ends with a frenzy of joy. That sounds unsubtle, but when you hear it you, you can’t escape from its spell.”

This was the first time that Rattle had conducted a Waldbühne Concert since 2009, and his reading of the Ninth Symphony was clearly a pre-emptive strike, anticipating the complete Beethoven cycle that he conducted and recorded with the Berliner Philharmoniker during the 2015/16 season. As the critic of the Berliner Morgenpost noted, the audience heard a conductor “in whom age is beginning to glow”, while another reviewer, writing in Der Tagesspiegel, felt that at least by the final movement, with its setting of Schiller’s Ode to Joy, Rattle was “unmistakably drawing the work’s thrilling message from the very depths of the orchestra”. The concert ended, as it does every year, with Paul Lincke’s perennial favourite, Berliner Luft, in which Rattle – a trained percussionist – beat time not with his baton but with his timpani drumsticks.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Simon Rattle conducts a concert “a la francaise” 2016 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

Maurice Ravel collected music boxes. Nothing fascinated the composer more than childlike dream worlds that took shape within a short time in the form of precision mechanics. Whether Sergei Diaghilev was aware of that when he asked Ravel in 1909 to musically arrange a bucolic epic written between the second and third centuries A.D. for performances by the Ballets russes? We don’t know – but we do know what ideas the composer let himself be guided by when working on Daphnis et Chloé: “My intention was to compose a vast musical fresco,” Ravel confessed, “less thoughtful of archaism than of fidelity to the Greece of my dreams, which identifies willingly with that imagined and depicted by late 18th-century French artists.”

Thus a game with images and sounds, captured in a score that turns into music states of intoxication all the way to total exhaustion, characterized nevertheless by a rather distanced, sometimes cool stance. More than almost any other, Ravel knew how to filter emotions through intellectual reflection and compositional precision. Not for nothing did he call himself a musical “master watchmaker”.

Just about a quarter of a century younger than Ravel, Francis Poulenc was described once by a critic as someone who is both “monk and naughty boy”. With Figure humaine, his choral cantata composed in 1943 based on texts by his fellow Frenchman Paul Éluard, the Janus-faced composer wrote a striking hymn to freedom under the impression of the German occupation of his homeland. Our concert opens with the original vocal version, and closes with an arrangement for 12 cellists (which for organisational reasons was recorded on 19 February 2016). Charles Koechlin’s symphonic poem Les Bandar-log inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book takes us to a completely different realm: a monkey dance that is both virtuoso and enigmatic poking fun at, among other things, representatives of a self-proclaimed compositional avant-garde: “These monkeys believe themselves to be creative geniuses; but they are nothing but vulgar imitators,” Koechlin wrote, “whose aim is to be fashionable and up-to-date.”

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